Earlier this month we reported on RISCOS Ltd [ROL] possibly undertaking legal action against RISC OS Open Ltd [ROOL], with the latter being the shared source project started by Castle. This news came down pretty hard on the already small RISC OS community, but it did have a number of positive effects: representatives from both ROL and ROOL were quick to explain that there is absolutely no animosity between the two companies, and that the community has nothing to fear.
Aaron Timbrell, boss of VirtualAcorn, and a director at ROL, explained:
A lot of people have invested their time, their money and their hopes in ROOL. It is imperative that this investment gets its due return, for the good of everyone. In order to ensure this RISCOS Ltd has already written to the ROOL directors.
This letter quite specifically states that RISCOS Ltd support what ROOL is doing, in particular RISCOS Ltd supports (quoting from the letter): The release of the source code by RISC OS Open Ltd either via the website or sold on a CD; RISC OS Open Ltd (releasing) RISC OS ROMs without having to pay a licence fee to RISCOS Ltd and RISC OS Open Ltd (offering) a commercial licence to potential RISC OS 5 users and to profit from such a licence.
ROOL’s Steve Revill also dispelled any hints at animosity. “RISC OS Open and RISCOS Ltd are not waving their fists at each other,” Rivell soothes, “We’ve enjoyed open and clear communications from the outset and are continuing to talk. Finding the best way for all parties to co-operate for the good of RISC OS has always been one of our aims.” According to ROL’s Paul Middleton, the company is only “maintaining [its] rights that were clearly set out in [its] licence [to develop and distribute RISC OS].”
Despite the kissing-and-making-up above, some questions are still left unanswered. Nobody speaks of the ownership claims made by ROL, which more or less come down to this: when ROL first signed a license deal with the then-owners of RISC OS Acorn/E14/Pace, code written by ROL had to be contributed back to Acorn/E14/Pace. Acorn/E14/Pace later sold the source code to Castle – including the contributions made by ROL. Because of this, according to ROL, they own all versions of RISC OS that came after – including the code released by ROOL.
In addition, it’s not being made clear by any of the statements if ROOL will be allowed to release a ROM built for RiscPCs, which was another important part of the original story. Questions, but no answers.
Drobe.co.uk, the source of all the news, has also made clear why they shone a light on his whole matter in the first place. Sensationalism? Hardly, Drobe writes.
It is amazing how fast problems are cured when they are illuminated by the public spotlight. Against a backdrop of fresh public assertions of OS ownership by ROL directors and other dirty linen being washed from the sidelines, there is a groundswell of interest in emulating RISC OS-compatible hardware. People are particularly looking forward to running RISC OS 5 for free using the free emulator RPCEmu on an entirely free platform, GNU/Linux – which would broadside the ROL-backed and Windows and Mac OS X-only VirtualRiscPC. If ROOL’s project was in danger of being put at risk, surely it is in the public’s interest to know the full reasons why?
Plus with everyone’s cards now out on the table, this tedious long-running dispute should be in its final stages, thankfully. There should be no more threats, no more quiet grumblings and whispered briefings. Just cooperation, please.
The air is cleared for a while now, but the uncertain legal situation remains.